A young female carpentry apprentice from The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London who has been shortlisted for a prestigious award has a bright future ahead of her, according to her tutors.

Fiona McKinney, 18, studies for a Level 2 Carpentry qualification at the College while working for Haringey Council’s housing service, Homes for Haringey. Now, her hard work could also earn her the top prize in the APSE National Housing and Building Apprentice of the Year Awards 2010.

APSE (the Association for Public Service Excellence) runs the awards to recognise the very best apprentices from the thousands currently combining work and study across the UK. Fiona, who was nominated by her manager at Homes for Haringey, will attend a special awards ceremony in Manchester on Thursday 1 July.

Fiona said of the news: “My employer encouraged me to apply for this award, but I was really surprised when they called me to say I was on the shortlist. All the staff at Homes for Haringey and everyone here at the College has been congratulating me. I’m really looking forward to the ceremony – I’m going to get out and buy a new outfit! My sister’s going to come along and support me, as well as my tutor and my mentor from work.”

Fiona’s tutor, Kevin Solomon, added: “Fiona’s mentor at Homes for Haringey also did his Apprenticeship here at the College a couple of years ago, so he knows exactly how to support Fiona with her work and the theory she’s picking up. Everyone who works with her thinks she’s got a bright future ahead of her – I could see her as a trainer, and she could really inspire other young women into construction trades.”  

While others have lauded Fiona as a role model for other women, the modest youngster says she’s just concentrating on learning her trade: “Woodwork was the only thing I really enjoyed at school – I just like practical things. I have to do some classroom work in my Apprenticeship, but it’s different from school, because I can see how it relates to what we do in the workshop.” Fiona was also keen to credit both her employer and the College for some part in her success. “The facilities and the whole environment I get to work in here are brilliant,” she said of the College’s Tottenham construction training department.

The College’s Vice Principal for Curriculum and Learner Experience, Jane O’Neill, said: “Fiona’s achievement is great for her, and it’s also recognition of our sector-leading Apprenticeship provision and the strong relationship we have with employers like Homes for Haringey.”

Fiona is in very good company at the College as a pioneering female in the traditionally male-dominated industry. Other recent success stories to come out of the high-achieving construction department at the College include Natasha McDonald, a plumbing apprentice and winner of both an Adult Learners Week Awards and a National VQ (Vocational Qualification) Learner Award. Meanwhile fellow plumbing apprentice Catherine Neary has been helping to build the Olympic site as part of her work for Wingate Electrical.

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